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The South-East and Ayo Adebanjo’s Musings on Power Shift

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By Azu Ishiekwene

We can argue all day about being strategic, about optics or the need to avoid sending the message that violent rebellion pays and we would be right. But if “justice and equity” are the reasons why other regions have had their turn as tokens of good faith and reconciliation, then we cannot justify a different treatment for the South-East. And I don’t have to have a dog in the fight to say so.

The statement by the leader of the Yoruba cultural group, Afenifere, Ayo Adebanjo, that the South-East should get the next turn at the presidency has ruffled quite some feathers.
This comes at a time when nearly half a dozen of his kinsmen have shown interest and almost nothing seems certain anymore because the two major political parties, having just discovered the virtue in merit, are now disposed to an open race.


The only thing that is certain is where the presidency may not go to: the South-East.

When you hear top politicians talking about power shift, and insisting that the president after Muhammadu Buhari should come from the South, for the sake of “fairness and equity”, they are not talking about the country’s most excluded region – the South-East.
They are not talking about the region with the least federal presence, the least representation in federal establishments and the least number of states, all of which are a price for a war fought over 50 years ago.


The advocates of power shift have managed to define a geopolitical South that excludes the South-East. They speak only of equity in power shift insofar as it means power going to the South-West or ‘South-South’. Adebanjo bucked the trend, and Edwin Clark has also lent his voice against the tendency.
In a country where hypocrisy is a political virtue, the mindset of those who preach fairness and equity is governed by the Matthean principle: Those who have will have more added to them, so that they can have even more at the expense of the disadvantaged.
That’s why the South-West, which in the last 23 years has had 15 years of the first two top positions, currently has six candidates aspiring for another eight years, while the ‘South-South’, which has had four years at the top job, has lined up six aspirants as of the time of writing.


And the North, which never fails to disappoint in the politics of benevolence, is saying on the one hand that power should shift to the South, and on the other propping up its own candidates to join the race, after about ten-and-a-half years of being at the helm since 1999.

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In the All Progressives Congress (APC), for example, the first sign from the North that all the talk about a Southern candidate meant nothing was when the minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, shelved the idea of being a running mate potentially to a ‘South-South’ candidate, fancied at the time to be former President Goodluck Jonathan.

Insiders confided in me this week that, “It was after the Jonathan idea met the brick wall that Malami revived the idea of running for Kebbi governorship. The dead Jonathan project was a clear signal to Malami that given the large crowd of aspirants from the South, a northerner might do better at the APC primaries and doom his vice-presidential ambition.”


How do critics of the Igbo quest explain the fact that even though the South-West has enjoyed the lion’s share of power in two decades, it is still in the race with a bigger sense of entitlement than any other region? Or why did three other Northern aspirants contest for APC’s ticket against Buhari in the party’s presidential primaries, despite the push for a consensus candidate at the time?

Let us return to the South-East. What is it about the region that makes it so convenient to treat it with spite and malicious negligence?
Some say that the region has to grow up and earn its place: No one hands over power on a platter. That sounds sensible and logical – that is, until we remind ourselves that the whole business of Federal Character, enshrined in Nigeria’s constitution today, was power redistribution served on a platter.


The Federal Character Commission (an elevation of quota system) is a useless bureaucracy costing the country billions of naira. It was improvised by General Sani Abacha in 1996 to help disadvantaged states catch up with the others and to create a sense of belonging. I wonder why the beneficiaries, mostly Northern states, did not think it prudent to earn the privileges bestowed by this crooked system.


How about the argument that the South-East does not deserve a shot at the presidency at this time because of the inability of Ndigbo to unite around one candidate and pursue a common agenda – that they are masters at the game of group betrayal and disassembling politics?
Those who make this argument cite Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe and Imo State governor, Hope Uzodinma, who appear to be inclined to candidates outside the zone, as examples of Ndigbo’s penchant for betrayal and backstabbing. Why can’t they rally around any of the 16 Igbo candidates in the race?

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If the South-East is Nigeria’s capital of disunity, how do the proponents of this argument explain the ambitions of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Governor Kayode Fayemi, and potentially, Pastor Tunde Bakare, who are not only from the South-West, but are all members of the same political party?

How do critics of the Igbo quest explain the fact that even though the South-West has enjoyed the lion’s share of power in two decades, it is still in the race with a bigger sense of entitlement than any other region? Or why did three other Northern aspirants contest for APC’s ticket against Buhari in the party’s presidential primaries, despite the push for a consensus candidate at the time?


Not done, there are others who would argue that politics is a game of numbers. If the South-East does not have the numbers and cannot negotiate with others to its advantage, as it did in 1959, why should it – or anyone – blame others for its current misfortune?
That sounds logical, until you cross to other zones, like the ‘South-South’, for example, that apart from producing a president, has reaped financial rewards and political benefits, from derivation to special commissions and an amnesty programme, far in excess of its numerical strength.


In the mathematics of a federation, the cold abstraction of numbers sometimes deserves to have a human face. That was why Jonathan became president; that is why Quebec retains its distinct cultural and political identity, despite its union with Canada.
Anyone who has the faintest idea of what has been going on in the South-East, especially in the last four or five years, should be worried. But perhaps we should pause and examine the conditions under which three Nigerian presidents – Obasanjo, Jonathan and Buhari – emerged in the last three decades.

Then, of course, there are those who argue that rotation is pointless because it is simply the crutch of the thieving political elite. Ordinary people up and down the country, North and South, hardly benefit. And when the elite are conspiring to steal, they hardly discuss tribe, religion or region. We should be concerned about what the candidate can – or has done – rather than where he or she is coming from.


That is true. But that truism applies to all six zones in the country. I completely agree that there should be a broader definition of who benefits from power beyond zoning; a need to make power more inclusive, accessible and accountable. But why didn’t that begin in 2013 when Northern elders, determined to remove Jonathan, said, “power rotation was a mark of equity and justice”?
If it’s not good enough to stop former President Olusegun Obasanjo returning to govern as civilian president for eight years, after three years as military president, and it’s not strong enough to stop Buhari copying Obasanjo’s example, why should it be the albatross of the South-East?

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In fact, the last time the Southern Forum, led by Governors Peter Odili, Chimaroke Nnamani and Victor Attah pressed for power shift in 2007, they capitulated and allowed Obasanjo to hand over to Umaru Shehu Yar’Adua!
In the current calculations about where the next president should come from, perhaps the biggest elephant in the room is the spectre of the separatist agenda in the South-East, largely promoted by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB). Separatist-related violence in the South-East has claimed hundreds of lives, ruined lives and left the region devastated.


Those who oppose power shift to the region argue that an Igbo president, after years of violent confrontations in the South-East, with the political leaders looking the other way most of the time, would amount to rewarding rebellion, and who knows how or where it would end?
That is frighteningly seductive. Anyone who has the faintest idea of what has been going on in the South-East, especially in the last four or five years, should be worried. But perhaps we should pause and examine the conditions under which three Nigerian presidents – Obasanjo, Jonathan and Buhari – emerged in the last three decades.


Obasanjo emerged on the back of widespread violent disturbances, especially in the South-West, after the annulment of the 1993 election and the death of MKO Abiola. Obasanjo, a Yoruba president, was the North’s peace offering to the South-West, as Jonathan was to the implacable ‘South-South’ and Buhari to the North – all of this regardless of the near ungovernable state of these regions when these presidents emerged and allegations of complicity against one of the candidates.

We can argue all day about being strategic, about optics or the need to avoid sending the message that violent rebellion pays and we would be right. But if “justice and equity” are the reasons why other regions have had their turn as tokens of good faith and reconciliation, then we cannot justify a different treatment for the South-East. And I don’t have to have a dog in the fight to say so.
It’s time to end the obfuscation and pussyfooting and to call this spade by its name: Nigeria must stop treating the South East as if it does not matter and still hope to find peace.


Azu Ishiekwene is Editor-in-Chief of LEADERSHIP.

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OPINION

Still on Maintaining Balance in Choice of Running Mates

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By Golu Timothy 

Last week, melting point focused on the likely choices of running mates of the different political parties after the conduct of their respective national conventions. While the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, quickly and calculatively settled for Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, Labour and other parties are said to have quietly submitted dummy names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, subject to final decisions by the respective flag bearers in conjunction with the leadership of the parties.

Timelines have been allotted for such and all other political activities by INEC and last Friday 17th was the dateline for the submission of the names of the running mates. The Electoral Act also provided windows for replacement of names earlier submitted and therefore all the parties have opportunities for proper consultations.

That’s why the APC and LP could submit dummies to INEC and get them comfortably replaced before the dateline for replacements . But for the PDP, it’s a decision taken and sealed, ready for campaigns.

Within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC which has produced former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu as its presidential candidate, growing indications that former Speaker of the 8th House of representatives, Bauchi born Rt Hon Yakubu Dogara is the preferred choice of vice president, is fast gaining momentum. Everyone knows the electoral value and political reach and spread of Dogara having served as one of the best few Speakers the nation has produced. The nation has been agog in debate as to whether Tinubu should pick a Christian or muslim running mate and each religious divide is putting pressure to get the slot.

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It is very imperative to give objective consideration for the choice of a VP from a wider perspective and not from a politically inclined position. If Atiku who is a muslim northerner can pick Okowa a Christian southerner, then it is only proper for Tinubu, a southern muslim to pick a Dogara or any other northern Christian to balance the religious equation. Tinubu, a muslim, from Lagos South West Nigeria, is expected to pair with Dogara, a Christian from Bauchi, North east Nigeria. On the PDP side, Atiku, a muslim from Adamawa in North East Nigeria has already paired with Okowa, a Christian from Delta, South South region of Nigeria. The need for a balanced ticket is not out of place considering the sharp dividing lines of region, religion and ethnicity in the country. That some northern muslims are making strong case for a muslim-muslim ticket is enough for Christians to make a case for balance. Why can’t the Apc and labour tow the line of the PDP? In the submission of their dummies, Tinubu is said to have submitted the name of a fellow muslim from Katsina, Kabir Masari while LP’s Peter Obi has submitted a fellow Christian, Doyin Okupe as running mate. This to me, should be corrected in the final consideration before submission. Its not whether a muslim muslim or Christian Christian ticket can bring victory or not. The most important consideration here is the future of peace, trust, confidence and mutual respect for each other as the nation peruse the next 4 or 8 years as the case may be. As governance takes off with such sentimental affiliations, people will begin to read and define every government policy and action, not on any merit but base on who is saying them and the leadership promoting them.

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If all things being equal ,the polity is not supposed to be divided along ethnic and religious lines, but realities on ground have made it very important for such considerations to hold sway. While some people believe that competence and not where you come from should be the guiding principle, the nature of power dynamics and allocations in politics must have boundaries expressed in such sentiments. We cannot assume otherwise , but must work with the realities in our hands, and the realities are that we are a secular nation dominated by two major religious groups which requires mutual consideration and respect for mutual coexistence. Since we have separate states and constituencies across the nation, one cannot wish away such considerations which are aimed at acquiring power.

Some people keep making reference to the Abiola/ Kingibe era in which both the presidential candidate and running mate were muslim. Such can not be easily applied now in view of the glaring suspicions and differences that exist. One can imagine if Obasanjo who is a Christian had picked a fellow Christian in 1999 or that the late Yar’Adua as a muslim, could have picked another muslim as his vice instead of a Christian. Political crisis and conflicts of monumental proportions could have been created, but for the way the balancing was done, there was peace and stability in governance all through. Why then must we change from the status quo since we have enjoyed doing so in the past and even right now. Buhari could have picked Tinubu as was speculated in 2015 but everyone opposed it then for peace to reign, why now?

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Those who are opposed to such balancing now are not fair to the system. They are self serving and greedy political players who wants to use religion to get what they could not get by merit and who don’t believe in mutual respect or coexistence. If the country can share power between the north and south, why can’t it look at the composition of the two zones in order to also balance the power equation? The choice of Dogara , a Christian to deputise for Tinubu, a muslim is one of the best options of balancing for the nation. It shows he has respect for Christians who in turn will feel a strong sense of belonging in the government.

As it is now, the nation is warming up for the most critical elections in the political history of the people, especially as the country confronts a transition from the outgoing Buhari administration to a new one. Nigerians of all shades and opinions, most especially those at the leadership levels should not divide this country by promoting unpopular and divisive tendencies of Muslim -muslim or Christian- Christian tickets for whatever reasons. While we appreciate PDP’s Atiku for setting the pace, we urge Tinubu, Obi, Kwankwaso and other presidential candidates to, in the same spirit of mutual respect and understanding, balance themselves for the sake of God and a peaceful country. We must look at the nation beyond our personal prisms and calculations. We must know that diaris God oh.

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Featured

Democratic Betrayals: the Challenge of Statehood

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By Wealth Dickson Ominabo

Recently Nigerian leaders and other democratic actors in the country  have been in a binge of festivity;  celebrating democracy in the country . From May 29 when many governors took time out to give account of their years of stewardship to Sunday June 12 when the federal government rolled out the drums to celebrate the new  Democracy Day  in Nigeria, our nation’s public sphere has been obsessed with commentaries about the valiance of democracy and the sacrifices of the different actors in time past and present.

Without a doubt ,  democratic rule was not an easy wish. It was not a buffet served on a dinner table to  citizens and other democratic enthusiasts. Democracy was birthed from the streets of rugged struggle; a struggle  that had some casualties, heroes and villains . Democracy was a product of agitations and negotiations by different stakeholders.

Here lies the vault of great expectations; that democracy will be properly nurtured, cherished and yield good fortunes   to the citizens.

23 years ago,  democracy was a thing hoped for; a prayer point to many, who believed that democracy was the promise land- a system of many possibilities, an oasis where the basic rights of citizens  will flourish and dreams and aspirations will be realised.

23 years later, democracy is losing its meaning, its value and  essence in the lives of the citizens. Beyond the refrain of democracy being the government of the people by the people and for the people, the real meaning of democracy is lost  in the multiple  conflicts and social contradictions in the nation. Almost all the intrinsic promises of democracies have either been betrayed by different actors and the values of a democratic reign have been discarded. The promises of liberty, justice and peace have been betrayed.

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The virtues that  define a democratic state are eroding – freedom of expression is daily curtailed, freedom of thought, conscience and religion are being challenged by non-state actors, while the civic space is shrinking  on a daily basis even as the state is busy in pursuit to capture institutions to their advantage.

The ballot is losing its potency  at every electioneering cycle, votes are traded to the highest bidder, our democracy is commercialized, legitimacy is manipulated, accountability and good governance are  trivialized, social justice is ostracized.

Today, the  sovereignty of the Nigerian state is contested with non-state actors – those without the mandate to govern- now superintend over a  large expanse  of the Nigerian territories,  imprisoning citizens and executing punishment, and judgement on innocent citizens in different guise through different terror tactics and strategies.  They kidnap, kill and rape and impose levy on citizens  in different parts of the country. They move daily from state to state like roaring lions devouring the destinies of many and taking others to slavery and servitude. Government to which the people willed their sovereignty through the ballot decides to share its legitimacy with these non-state actors through indiscretion, inaction and dereliction of responsibilities.

In Nigeria, democracy has not been able to address the challenges of the  citizens. Civilian rule in all these years has failed to guarantee the two basic democratic rights – freedom from fears and wants. Nigeria is at a crossroads; it is captured by human miseries, and characterized by sallow marks such as hunger, poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment.  Nigeria is a fallow ground for extremists – who cling to different frustrations to undermine the State, thereby exposing the country to wanton fragilities. 

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One cannot but situate the crisis of Nigerian statehood to the challenge of leadership amplified by sustained culture of democratic betrayals by government. The Nigerian Guardian in a recent editorial aptly captures the crisis of the Nigerian state when it wrote that :

“ The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.”

The Paper drawing the attention of all stakeholders to the near collapse of the Nigerian state, warned of the danger of the  sustenance  of the present governance culture of democratic betrayal, abscondment and dereliction of responsibilities by leaders .

It posited that : “Today, the country is hell-hole describable by the absence of government in the national space and negative sovereignty; it is a country living a lie. It might not be so lucky this time around. It is the time to act; and to act quickly to rescue it from the brink of disintegration.”

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As Larry Jay Diamond, aptly observed in his article “Three Paradoxes of Democracy,”  founding  and preserving  democracy  are two different things. For democracy to endure, he argues that  it  must be deemed legitimate by the people and  “..this legitimacy requires a profound moral commitment and emotional allegiance, but these develop only over time, and partly as a result of effective performance.” Democracy he asserts  will not be valued by the people “unless it deals effectively with social and economic problems and achieves a modicum of order and justice.”

Here lies the challenge of Nigeria’s democracy and the recession of the country into a failed state.  The point must be stressed that the fault does not lie in democracy as a form of government but on the actors – coy democrats who are too shy to live and act according to the dictates of democracy.

To improve Nigeria’s democracy and make it work for the common good of all citizens, leaders and all democratic actors must incentivize social and economic rights of citizens. This is the most sustainable way to reinforce  the waning legitimacy of the Nigerian State. 

Legitimacy is not an end in itself- it doesn’t start and end with electoral mandate.  Legitimacy is enhanced through shoring up of public trust; trust is reinforced  through fulfillment of democratic promises and commitment to  the social contract between the government and the citizens.

Ominabo is the Communications officer at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation

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Faith

Goodwill Messages as Benue Speaker Takes Wife to Altar

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From David Torough, Makurdi

The Speaker, Benue State House of Assembly and the Gubernatorial Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) for next year’s election, Engr Titus Uba on Saturday took his wife, Paulina to the Altar of God at St. Dominic’s Catholic Church, Sachi in Makurdi, the state Capital.

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom in a goodwill message at the wedding  reception in honour of the couple said Uba  has the capacity to effectively Govern the state.

  

He stated that the PDP candidate’s humility was a virtue that all great leaders possess. 

The Governor explained that Engineer Uba has excelled in his professional career and as a politician, having presided over one of the most successful assembly across the states of the federation, would replicate his performance as Governor of Benue.

 

He congratulated Engineer Uba and his wife, Pauline for consummating their union in the Lord and called on the people to pray for them as well as other marriages to succeed. 

The Governor who prayed God to bless the union also asked Him to grant their heart desires and ambitions, adding that as a humble couple, God will lift them to the exalted position of the number one family of the state. 

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Chairman of the occasion, Senator Gabriel Suswam and the Head of Service, Mrs. Veronica Onyeke who served as the Chairlady, urged the couple to stick to the vows they made to each other and always look unto God for solutions to their challenges to have a successful union. 

In their goodwill messages, wife of the Governor, Dr. Eunice Ortom, represented by Mrs. Monica Ugela, wife of PDP National Chairman, Mrs. Iyorchia Ayu, Wife of the Tor Tiv, HRM, Felicia Ayatse and Tor Jechira, Chief Clement Uganden, advised the couple to imbibe the spirit of forgiveness to have a blissful marriage. 

The State Deputy Governor, Engineer Benson Abounu, other members of the state executive and security councils, leadership of the PDP at both the state, zonal and national levels as well as other dignitaries across the state witnessed the wedding ceremony.

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